The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a monthly source of story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the United States and Canada.

Journalists can receive WatchDog TipSheet free by subscribing to the SEJournal Online, the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here

WatchDog TipSheet is also available through the searchable archive below and via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

October 31, 2012

  • The gas industry won itself an exemption from disclosure requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005. But now environmentalists have a new angle, claiming EPA has authority to compel disclosure under a different law (the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act) — and urging EPA to use it.

  • Gripes about PIO policies are not new. Now an article in the Society of Professional Journalists' Quill magazine takes the complaint to a higher level, arguing PIO restrictions are not aimed at access and accuracy, and urging journalists to resist the PIO requirements in their own work — and to work together nationally to elevate the PIO censorship issue.

  • Watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility's new guide to state whistleblower laws starts with a map — click on any state to link to its whistleblower law and other related info. Federally, there is currently a bill in play in Congress which would strengthen the notoriously weak federal whistleblower protections.

October 17, 2012

  • Danielle Ivory reports for Bloomberg: "At least 25 federal agencies are outsourcing parts of the FOIA process. The contractors, sometimes using workers with security clearances, are building FOIA software, corresponding with requesters, redacting documents and recommending what information should be withheld."

  • The two New York Times journalists were working on private land with the permission of the landowner, near Winnsboro in northeast Texas, when they were detained, according to the online energy publication FuelFix. The 78-year-old owner of the land, who objects to the routing of the pipeline across it, was also arrested for trespassing on her own land.

  • NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is considering a rule which could restrict public access to important data on commercial fishing — and overfishing. This data includes federally required public records paid for by taxpayers. The watchdog group OMB Watch criticized the proposed rule's handling of confidential information

  • RCFP's new online guide to appealing federal FOIA decisions, written by smart, experienced media lawyers, "will be particularly useful to independent journalists and those at news organizations who don’t have ready access to legal counsel to help file appeals."

October 3, 2012

  • Some utilities want to get rid of the requirement — substituting online notification, even for water customers who lack Internet connections. A legislative effort to ease the notification requirement failed in the Senate in summer 2012. Now EPA is starting procedures which might lead to doing the same thing by rulemaking. Deadline for comments is October 11, 2012.

  • While it still has a long way to go to reach its potential, the new "FOIAonline" web portal benefits environmental reporters now. Submit and track FOIA requests online to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more.

  • Five years after wildlife biologist Charles Monnett's 2006 observations of dead polar bears, believed to have drowned because of disappearing Arctic ice, Interior started an investigation of Monnett's science. The findings — partially published September 28, 2012 — were confused and contained no findings of scientific misconduct.

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